Free Speech under Attack in Morocco

Washington

Morocco’s closure of leading independent news magazine Le Journal Hebdomodaire and the prison sentence handed down to blogger Boubaker al-Yadib reflect an ongoing and disturbing pattern of restriction on free speech.
 
Moroccan authorities shut down the French-language weekly and declared it bankrupt, the latest twist in a defamation case against its editor and co-founder, Abou Bakr Jamai, that crippled the magazine with over $360,000 in fines.
 
“The use of exorbitant fines and libel cases to silence Morocco’s critics sends a clear signal that independent and free media in the country will not be tolerated,” said Paula Schriefer, advocacy director at Freedom House. “The increased rate of attacks on traditional and new media is a disturbing pattern in the government’s continuing repression of free expression.”
 
Jamai went into exile after Le Journal lost its 2006 appeal of the defamation case. He returned to Morocco last year and has faced ongoing government harassment amid advertising boycotts and fines.
 
In another example of government crackdown on the media, blogger Boubaker Al-Yadib was sentenced to six months in prison after he helped organize a week-long blogging strike to protest restrictions on free expression. Bloggers posted a picture of a coffin marked “Freedom of Expression” and stopped writing online during a “week of mourning.” 
 
“Morocco retaliates against journalists for publishing, but then attacks bloggers for refusing to publish,” said Courtney C. Radsch, Senior Program Officer for the Global Freedom of Expression campaign. “The government’s hostility toward free expression contradicts its desire to be seen as a progressive country.”
 
Morocco is ranked Party Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2009.

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